Monday, April 15, 2013

B.A.F.F.L.E.D. Fashion Law

The Fashion Law Symposium- By Guest Editor, Shelley Whitehead, Esq. 

First, I just want to sincerely thank V for allowing me this platform as a guest writer on her blog.  V and I were introduced by a mutual friend back in August 2012 when I first moved back to Chicago and she quickly became one of my dearest and most supportive friends. She was the inspiration for me to hit the ground running in helping to put Chicago fashion law on the map and was one of my biggest cheerleaders when I decided to recently launch my blog The Legal BombSHELL. Both V and I were afforded the tremendous honor in being a panelist/presenter at the 1st Annual John Marshall Law School (“JMLS”) Fashion and Design Law Symposium held on Friday, April 12, 2013. Hopefully if you are in Chicago, you got a chance to check it out. If not, here’s a recap of this historic event.

For the panelists, our experience actually started Thursday evening when JMLS’s Fashion Law Society hosted a dinner for us at Pazzo’s, an Italian eatery. I swore off bread and pasta for the month of April, so it was quite the struggle as I watched the bread and olive oil being passed around and all of the pasta dishes being sampled. Nevertheless, I stayed strong and my grilled salmon dinner was divine.  I will definitely be dining there again come May. But I digress. There were panelists who flew in from literally all over North America to take part in this momentous occasion. It was truly a pleasure being able to network with so many of the movers and shakers in fashion law. By the time I got home, I was riddled with anticipation for the day to come and had my clothes laid out like it was the first day of school. 

My Friday began by arriving to JMLS relatively early as I was part of the very first panel.  Once the symposium commenced, my ├╝ber fabulous co-panelist Shara Harris, Esq. of WFML, P.C., and I presented on “Legal Issues in the Fashion Industry: Creating and Protecting Your Intellectual Property”. Our presentation pretty much laid the foundation for the panels to come by giving an overview of the business and legal aspects of the fashion industry— a fashion law 101 if you will.  The following panel featured your amazing blog host V and two other panelists, Ashlee Froese from Toronto, Canada and Roberto Frias from Mexico City, Mexico.  Their presentation compared the similarities and differences as to how fashion law and intellectual property is regulated in each country’s jurisdiction.  You should be super proud of V. Since you follow her, you already know what a fashion law guru she is and she definitely showcased her vast knowledge on Friday. During the lunch intermission, all of the morning panelists took pictures with the symposium’s photographer, with State Street as the backdrop. 

After lunch, there was a panel featuring Washington, D.C. attorney Mariessa Terrell and Chicago attorney Aleksandra Volk who sat with Chicago-based designers Anastasia Chatzka and Lara Miller to discuss the impact trademarks and marketing had on their brands.  One of the highlights of the panel was Lara Miller wowing the audience with her demonstration of one of her “flip sweaters”.  This sweater can be worn multiple ways — once as a cardigan and then by just flipping it upside down, it can be worn as a shrug. While I can honestly say I enjoyed every single panel, I must say this panel was particularly refreshing because we got to hear a designer’s perspective. As attorneys, we can talk all day long about the law, but it’s nice to hear from the proverbial horses’ mouth how those laws actually positively or negatively affect the designers.

The following panel was conducted by New York attorney Frances Hadfield, Esq. and Chicago attorney Michael Hode, Esq. who gave us a tremendous overview of some of the more overlooked aspects of fashion law: importing and exporting goods, taxes and even the tags in our clothes. The last panel was with Philadelphia attorney and Wilhelmina model Tracy Agyemang, Esq., California based attorney Kanika Corley, Esq., and Wilhelmina Model’s General Counsel Ali Grace Marquart, Esq. who gave an insightful and entertaining presentation on labor issues in the modeling industry and rights of publicity.  Overall, the symposium had something for everyone. Even if you thought you knew everything there was to know about fashion law, you certainly left out of there feeling like you learned something new. To learn more about the incredible panelists that presented, please check out the Chicago Fashion Law Update.  

After the symposium, there was a cocktail reception for the attendees which included hors d’oeuvres, a wine bar and fashion show. The designers represented included Suzanne Opara of 828 Collection, LaTonya Williams of Elizabeth Smith Fashions, and hats from the Goorin Brothers.  The models were actually law students from the Loyola University Chicago School of Law, which was a nice and unexpected touch.   

This symposium was everything I could have dreamed of and more. Natalie Laczek, Michon Stuttley and the lovely ladies of the John Marshall Fashion Law Society put together a phenomenal event. I was truly impressed with how well-organized and well-planned the event turned out. Every “i” was dotted and every “t” was crossed. The marketing and publicity for the event was incredible, as the symposium was sold out and people were actually begging for tickets (my dad being one) and even asking to be put on a waitlist. As you know Chicago is often overlooked in just about everything fashion-related, despite it being a huge and thriving metropolis. The astounding interest and success of the symposium is a testament that there is a market for fashion here and all that was needed was the proper platform. That platform was definitely showcased on Friday. Therefore, I believe it is safe to say there will be a 2nd Annual JMLS Fashion and Design Law Symposium next year.

Thanks again for having me V! I truly enjoyed sharing with your readers!

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